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'She-Hulk' Episode 9 Recap: A Stunning Rollercoaster Finale

Jen Walters goes straight to the top in a finale that explodes what a Marvel ending should be.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
6 min read
Tatiana Maslany as She-Hulk

She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) makes a closing argument.

Disney Plus

Now that's how you end a TV show. In the finale episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, streaming now on Disney Plus, She-Hulk rips apart Kevin Feige's Marvel Cinematic Universe and shreds the rule book for how Marvel stories should wrap up.

This is definitely not an ending you'll see coming.

If you need a refresher, here's our recap of last week's episode 8 (or start with She-Hulk episode 1). Now let's delve into the latest installment, titled Whose Show is This?, complete with a ton of cameos and Easter eggs -- and lots of spoilers!

Savage She-Hulk

The season finale is all about endings, but let's not forget the beginning: a retro-styled prologue that imagines what this show would be like if made in the 1970s, in the style of legendary series The Incredible Hulk (which ran from 1978 to 1982, plus a few TV movies). This is more than a cute homage to the classic show: She-Hulk was actually created because of the show, as Marvel comics staffers hurriedly created a woman version of the angry green giant so they'd grab the character rights before the TV show creators could think of it. 

The series starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner (the TV guys changed his name because they didn't like Stan Lee's penchant for alliterative names). Muscular Lou Ferrigno donned green body paint when Banner transformed into the Hulk. The '70's Savage She-Hulk in episode 9 delightfully mimics that old school approach. The fashions, the hair, the split screen -- what a great way to start the episode.

After smashing up the Female Lawyer of the Year gala last week, Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) finds herself in superpower supermax. Luckily her legal chums, led by Mallory Book, secure her a plea deal. Wearing an inhibitor that stops her transformations (the same deal as Emil Blonsky), Jen loses Hulk powers, her job and her home.

Now that's savage. 

Is this working for you?

Jen's mom shows Nikki a video of Jen twerking in law school (possibly a reference to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing at college in a video which surfaced when she was elected to Congress). Nikki uses the video as bait so Pug can infiltrate an IRL meeting of the manosphere where everyone refers to women as "females" (which, by the way, is a way of using language to dehumanize women). They're bitching about a woman Thor, as seen in the comics and then played by Natalie Portman in Thor: Love and Thunder.

The Abomination arrives, but don't worry: Emil isn't a complete monster, even if he is happy to go green and spout self-help platitudes for obnoxious assholes. Titania also shows up, to add to the chaos. And Bruce too, finally.

It turns out tech bro Todd Phelps is the mysterious big bad HulkKing who created the Intelligencia website.  He's also the guy who sent Josh to steal Jen's blood. In his mind, stealing superheroes is actually earning them. He injects himself with Jen's blood and becomes a Hulk. In other words, the villain becomes a mirror image of the hero, a trope which powered the climaxes of MCU films right from the start. 2008's Iron Man culminated with armored Tony Stark fighting similarly-suited Obadiah Stane aka Iron Monger, while Tim Roth's Emil Blonsky stole the Hulk's powers to become the Abomination in The Incredible Hulk. It happened in Ant-Man, Black Panther, Captain America: The First Avenger, WandaVision and more.

And Jen isn't having it.

Fourth wall smash 

One of my biggest complaints about the series is that Jen's fourth wall-breaking chats to the audience are supposed to be funny when Jen criticizes the show's obvious problems, but that doesn't stop these issues still being problems. At last though the meta commentary pays off hugely in the finale.

Jen smashes the fourth wall completely and busts right through your Disney Plus home screen. Spotting a thumbnail for behind-the-scenes making-of documentary series Marvel Assembled, Jen climbs out of her show and into the "real" world, striding across the Marvel/Disney studio lot and right on into the She-Hulk: Attorney at Law writers room.

Jen confronts the show's writers about the messy finale and familiar final confrontation. While fans might want to see a long-awaited Hulk/Abomination rematch, Jen wants to deal with the real human emotional stakes she's grappling with. That, the writers respond, isn't the show Kevin wants. They must be talking about Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, the baseball-hatted supremo who's steered the MCU to box office dominance. Except, as the subtitles reveal, they're actually talking about someone -- or something -- called K.E.V.I.N.

Jen busts into the heart of Marvel Studios (after signing an NDA, naturally) and finds herself facing some kind of robot supercomputer dealio. It turns out the MCU is the brainchild of an AI calling itself Knowledge Enhanced Visual Interconnectivity Nexus, employing the most-advanced entertainment algorithm in the world to make "near-perfect products" -- although some are better than others. 

Jen presents her closing argument, in which she somehow knows about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. K.E.V.I.N. allows her to rewrite her own ending, which basically means Jen changes time. This turn of events is knowing and funny, but boy does it throw up some existential questions for the MCU. What does this mean for the free will of the characters living in this world? Can the behind-the-scenes realm be accessed through the Multiverse? What the heck is going on?! 

At least K.E.V.I.N. acknowledges Marvel has been historically light in the department of womens' needs, even if the AI won't be drawn into when the X-Men are returning (hey, thanks for trying, Jen). K.E.V.I.N. can't resist taunting Jen over a possible movie appearance, and with a budget-friendly scene transition she's back in the real world. Or "real" world. You know what I mean.

There's just time for one final transformation -- on-screen, but definitely truncated -- plus Daredevil literally dropping out of the sky. Jen resumes her legal work, and to the strains of I Want to See the Bright Lights tonight by Richard and Linda Thompson, Jen and Matt attend a happy family barbecue. Speaking of family...

Son of a Hulk

Bruce turning up at the barbecue presumably means Matt Murdock's identity will now be known to the Avengers. But more importantly, Bruce explains the message that drew him back to the planet Sakaar (where he lived in Thor: Ragnarok). Say hello to Skaar, the Hulk's half-Sakaarian son from the 2007 World War Hulk comics series.

It's a pretty undramatic way to introduce such a significant character, but that's what happens when you make K.E.V.I.N. rewrite on the fly.

Episode 9 post-credits scene

After the credits, Emil is back in the DODC supermax where we first met him at the start of the series. But he doesn't spend too long paying a karmic price: sorceror Wong breaks off watching TV long enough to open a portal into Emil's cell and spring his old sparring partner. Emil resigns himself to a new life at Kamar-Taj, but at least there's Wi-Fi (harking back to a joke in the first Doctor Strange film).

On the plus side, Wong is basically a decent guy and at least Emil is hanging with him rather than being pushed to villainous ways. But it does mean Wong is still pretty cavalier about stuff like, y'know, the law. Oh, and why no Maddisyn?!!

She-Hulk random thoughts and Marvel Easter eggs

  • K.E.V.I.N. (or Knowledge Enhanced Visual Interconnectivity Nexus) is a reference to villainous comics cyborg/computer M.O.D.O.K. (Mental/Mobile/Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing).
  • Judging by the posters on her childhood bedroom wall, Jen was inspired to get into law by Erin Brockovich and Legally Blonde.
  • The writers room is covered with a wall of colored sticky notes, each of which contains a "beat": a thing that happens in the episode. Some writers stick index cards on their walls. Either way, the goal is to "break the story" by mapping out the structure of these beats across three acts before writing a draft of the script.
  • The room's walls also contain what I can only guess are in-jokes like "There's something attractive about a man's knees" and "Gamma goo / Slop it in."
  • I hope Disney has good health plans for its security staff, after Jen busts up that guy's hand. 
  • The closing song is We Run This by Missy Elliott, because of course.
  • What happened to Josh?
  • If there is a season 2, we're always going to suspect it's a dream sequence.
  • What is up with Skaar's hair?!

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